Sex offender has sentence reduced
A man who pretended to be a taxi driver and sexually assaulted a young woman who got into his car has won a reduction in his jail sentence.
Two Court of Appeal judges in London cut the original four years' imprisonment imposed in the case of Mashain Pitchei, 45, of Tring, Hertfordshire, and replaced it with a new jail term of 32 months.
His challenge against the length of the sentence handed down at St Albans Crown Court in April, following his earlier guilty plea to sexual assault, was allowed by Mr Justice Globe and Judge Anthony Morris QC.
Pitchei's case is one of the first to be broadcast from the Court of Appeal after a near 90-year ban on allowing cameras in court was lifted.
It was argued on his behalf today that the original custodial term was "manifestly excessive".
The appeal judges found that the sentence was "too long", even taking into account the "aggravating features" of the offence.
Giving the ruling of the court, Judge Morris said the offence took place in October last year when Pitchei sexually assaulted an "extremely drunk" young woman who had been out drinking with friends in Hemel Hempstead.
Judge Morris said a CCTV operator saw her on camera and "seeing her state was concerned for her welfare".
He added: "In a very public-spirited way he thereafter monitored her movements on camera."
The judge said that in the early hours the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons and was referred to as "K" in court, walked across a road to Pitchei's car which was parked at the rear of a line of taxis.
"The appellant is not a taxi driver, but it appears that K thought that he was," he added.
She got into the front passenger seat and the car was seen to drive around for about six minutes. It stopped in a dark area and then the vehicle's lights went out.
Judge Morris said the CCTV operator "was so concerned for the safety of K that he called the police immediately".
One of the aggravating features of the offence identified by the sentencing judge was the degree of planning and premediation involved in his pretending to be a taxi driver to "lure" a woman into his car so he could sexually assault her.
The appeal judges said they considered the appropriate sentence after a trial would have been four years, "which after giving full credit for the guilty plea should be reduced to 32 months imprisonment".
Quashing the sentence imposed at the Crown Court and replacing it with the 32 months, Judge Morris said: "To that extent this appeal is allowed."
:: Another case filmed at the Court of Appeal today was a challenge by Joseph Stott, 25, from Bradford, West Yorkshire, against a jail sentence of seven and a half years for a firearms offence. His bid to appeal was rejected by the same two judges.